Are You There Flake? It's Us, Your Constituents - by Greer Clem
There has been a mixture of praise and criticism towards Jeff Flake since his historic speech on the Senate floor several nights ago. I've immersed myself in the varying responses to his denouncement of our "indecent discourse" and our "course leadership." But what no one has been able to tell me, and with no direct line to Mr. Flake to ask him himself, I am still wondering: are you abandoning us, Mr. Flake?
This question may seem childish, but hey, 2017 has given me abandonment issues. In today's political climate, we are often paralyzed by how rapidly things are changing. Trump's administration is hell-bent on uprooting our values and jeopardizing equality and any sort of accountability is nonexistent. So when someone like Jeff Flake stands up and decries that our government, our nation's morals, are in danger, it's a big deal; it feels vindicating and hopeful. Until the next morning comes, and we are back to being common citizens, except now we have another leader so hopeless he is bowing out.
I wish I had the luxury to bow out. I wish I had a position of power in which I could stand up and say, to an audience as broad as our nation, "I hear you and I see what's happening and it is not okay." If I had that luxury, maybe I too would bow out. But I hope not. We don't need another levelheaded person to step aside. We're trying to elect more of them! In his speech, Flake said, "It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party, the party that has so long defined itself by its belief in those things." Take back your party, Mr. Flake. You could be the person who starts that movement. I can't believe I'm advocating for a GOP figurehead to regain the conservative principals of his party, but, again, it's 2017 - anything's possible.
Democrats, paralyzed though we may currently be, have not lost the values that belong to our party. We may have lost the party itself, it may be scattered and confused and stunned from recent losses, but our values have not changed. If you truly see the GOP as a party devoted to free trade, pro-immigration, fiscally conservative, then why would you abandon those principals now?
Consider your home state, Mr. Flake. Arizona, notorious for it's tough immigration laws, could transform itself into a symbol of equal opportunity. Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, proud enforcer of the SB 1070 law - but you could speak out. You could be the voice of those stopped in the street and asked for proof of citizenship purely because of the color of their skin. Much of Arizona's economic income relies on the technology industry. You've got a president threatening to pull out of NAFTA - how would losing a bordering trading partner affect your economic growth? Not just any trading partner, but your most significant. Mexico accounts for 30% of all of Arizona's exports to foreign countries. And what about climate change? With Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, your state faces less accountability than it requires. Arizona's average temperatures have risen more drastically over the past few decades (2 degrees Fahrenheit per year) than any other state in the lower 48 states. Reduced precipitation, low air quality, and higher temperatures will have an impact on Arizona's agricultural industry, which is one of the key pillars of its trade relationship with both Mexico and Canada.
You see, Mr. Flake, this is not the time to walk away. Was it the time for your speech? Absolutely. But now I am returning the favor - I am calling you to action. I demand that we move forward, and I get to do that - I'm a citizen. That is one of the few rights remaining to me, that I can lay out my demands because you are a representative of your constituents, of we, the people. Don't bow out, Mr. Flake. Or, bow out with a plan. Bow out with a vision for our country and a way to get us there, not just despair for where we are now. Don't do it because a traditional conservative "has a narrower and narrower path to election." Because honestly, that just sounds like you're afraid to lose. What happened to running scared? We're all scared, Mr. Flake, so run with us. Run for us.